grow a healthy church


What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring Leaders?

coaching and mentoring

Healthy churches use coaching and mentoring to create a thriving leadership pipeline.

They provide feedback, training, encouragement, and events that inspire leaders to great heights.

A crucial element of leadership development is coaching and mentoring. 

When churches have healthy leaders they will grow a healthy church.

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

As part of our Diploma in Professional Coaching studies at AIM, Di and I are reading an excellent book on coaching, Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore (affiliate link) which I cannot recommend highly enough. 

Whitmore believes coaching should aim primarily for only two things: 

1. Building awareness 

2. Developing responsibility 

 He believes it’s not about training through instruction or advising through mentoring. Rather, it’s about asking the right questions to help someone become increasingly aware and then helping them take full responsibility. 


 Here’s The Primary Difference: 

 1. Mentors answer questions and give insights. 

 2. Coaches ask good questions that raise awareness and place the responsibility back on the one being coached. 

I’m Changing My Ways

Here’s the change I’m making when coaching leaders: rather than just advising I’m also asking questions & getting them to become more aware of what they want & how they are going to act. 

Advising may happen later in the discussions but only after awareness & responsibility are built. Now this is quite challenging. 

I will admit that I am used to downloading advice and guidance. I am comfortable with answering questions and telling my stories to illustrate truth and transformational leadership. 

However, asking questions and allowing a leader space to wrestle with those questions, while remaining quiet, is  not easy. 

In fact it is downright challenging. 

Millennials Want Coaching

Research is showing that coaching is vital in leading Millennials. 

These younger leaders want more regular feedback and coaching from their leaders. Check out this research from the Harvard Business Review.

Millennials prefer more regular feedback from their managers. This indicates they are looking for interaction and leadership.

They don’t want to be left alone to fend for themselves.

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Interestingly, when I train leaders in this style of coaching I find that they also struggle initially with the process of being quiet, listening, and asking follow-up questions. We are almost hard-wired as leaders to solve problems and give answers. 

Of course, this is completely appropriate at certain times but it is certainly worth developing an ability to ask questions and wait quietly for the answers.  

Millennials Want Options

Millennials also want options when it comes to their workspaces.

Covid-19 has forced us into new work habits and now people are used to working from home and operating in virtual offices

Millennials in the workplace love this flexibility and any church offering flexible workplace opportunities will become attractive to millennials hungry for options.

Here’s an interesting chart from an English leadership development firm on the differences between coaching & mentoring.

Generally, more structured, and meetings are scheduled regularlyRelationship generally has a set duration
Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needsGenerally, more structured and meetings are scheduled regularly
More long-term and takes a broader view of the personShort-term and focused on specific development areas/issues
The ongoing relationship that can last for a long periodCoaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role

Interestingly, they believe coaching includes helping another person to improve awareness.

I think that’s been one of my key learnings about coaching.

It’s less about imparting wisdom and more about assisting people to discover wisdom, which I think is far more empowering.

This was sourced from the Brefi Group.

Consider these differences between the language of mentoring & coaching.


“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”
“This is how I would solve that problem”
“I think we should focus on this area”
“Here’s what I can do for you”
“This is an example of what I mean”
“These 3 things will help you ease the relational tension”


“What do you think you should do?”
“What are your options for solving that problem?”
“What’s got your attention at the moment?”
“Tell me how can I help you?”
“Could you give me an example of that?”
“What sort of things could you do to ease the tension in that relationship?”

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John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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